Department of Chemistry

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Harlan Mangum Saves the Day - Drowns His Truck

Harlan Mangum has been the facilities planning manager for the Department of Chemistry for fourteen years, but has worked within our buildings' halls for a total of twenty-five. We all wish him the very best in his upcoming retirement. Harlan started out years ago in the old Venable Hall’s instrument shop before moving up to shop manager and then into facilities. Just a few years back he was included in design discussions during the construction of Murray and new Venable halls. In short, he knows his buildings as well as he knows anything, and he knows what to look out for when it rains.

Harlan Mangum


In our part of campus, the drains can get overwhelmed, says Harlan. This June it seemed to rain more days than not, and Mangum and his staff in laboratory management kept their eyes on the drains. Sunday morning, June 30, he got a call that the basement lab of Venable had some standing water. He headed to campus; this had happened before.

floodingMangum, along with William Jimenez from Facilities Services, who was on call that morning, spent the early afternoon clearing the drains right outside Venable's brick archway. It didn't matter that it was a Sunday. Mangum knew it needed to be done, and he didn't mind. "I was still standing there sweeping water, and the drains had literally just been cleared, and that's when the bottom just fell out," Mangum said. "Everything was working like it was supposed to, but it was raining so hard. You could hear the drains air locking, and then they leveled off and the water started creeping toward us. It was a flash flood – you really couldn't do anything about it."

The fail-safe for a flood in that area is the loading dock behind Murray Hall. Both Mangum and Jimenez had parked there hours earlier. After monitoring the damage and working to clean the mess, they finally decided to check on their trucks. The loading dock had filled with water, the surface gray and swirling with dirt, mulch and oil. Though the water had already begun to recede, both trucks were flooded with the murky water.

truckWhen Mangum left at 8:30 that night, his truck's engine, thankfully, turned over. He got home, but he knew his truck would have to be totaled. "It smelled like a wet dog," he said. "When the water gets in the computer and down in the seats, it's just gone." It was a wet afternoon, many buildings across campus sustained water damage. Employees from housekeeping, grounds, energy management, design and construction, building services, and waste reduction and recycling quickly banded together to get the buildings back up and running as soon as possible. "It takes many trades to put everything back together again," Mangum says. "In our buildings, we needed need new sheet rock, paint, and floor and ceiling tile. We needed plumbers and electricians. Mary Beth Koza and her group at the Department of Environment, Health and Safety responded quickly to see if we had any safety issues. I just can't say enough about everyone who helped."

"The facilities folks came out and pulled up baseboards and bored holes in the sheet rock to help them air out. They set up giant fans to help everything dry. The recovery effort was just incredible," he says. The chemistry buildings are just a handful of those that needed help, and the campus relief efforts took several weeks. "There's so much to do, all over campus," said Harlan. "When something like this happens, everybody responds. This whole campus is such a great team."

By Courtney Mitchell, University Gazette